05/25/2005 11:00PM

Valenzuela eyes mid-June return

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Benoit & Associates
Indian Ocean scores a one-length victory on Wednesday despite an erratic stretch run.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela is hoping to return to riding in mid-June from injuries suffered in a spill at Hollywood Park on May 8. One of his first rides back could be on Mighty Beau at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting in England.

Valenzuela suffered a knee injury and migraine headaches after falling from Mango Escapade shortly after the start of a sprint. He underwent knee surgery in mid-May to repair cartilage damage to his knee.

While Valenzuela is undergoing physical therapy on the knee, he said he is no longer suffering from migraines. Initially, Valenzuela said he thought he might not return to riding until early July, but he is now optimistic the comeback date can be pushed forward.

"I'm feeling a lot better," he said. "I'm on my recovery. I'm not on crutches anymore. I can walk. Sometimes, it's painful, sometimes, it's not."

Valenzuela, 42, said he began physical therapy earlier this week, but has yet to set a return date. "I'm hoping after a couple of more weeks of physical therapy I may know more," he said.

Mighty Beau, a 6-year-old trained by Jeff Mullins, is Valenzuela's most recent stakes winner. Mighty Beau won the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint over five furlongs on turf at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Valenzuela said he is hoping to be ready to ride Mighty Beau.

"We have to play it by ear," he said. "I've told them, 'I'd love to ride him.' "

For the Royal Ascot meeting, which this year is being held at York Racecourse, Mullins may start Mighty Beau twice in a week - in the King's Stand Stakes over five furlongs on June 14 and the Golden Jubilee Stakes over six furlongs on June 18. In 2003, the Australian invader Choisir won both races.

Mullins said he is not concerned about attempting two major races in a week with Mighty Beau. He recalled doing it with lesser horses when he was beginning his training career in Utah.

"We didn't have any grass back there," he said. "The only grass was in the pasture."

Rock Hard Ten out of training

Rock Hard Ten, the top older horse in California this year, has been taken out of training because of a recurrence of body soreness, trainer Richard Mandella said. The setback casts into doubt how much racing, if any, that Rock Hard Ten will be able to do this summer.

Owned by Mercedes Stable and Madeleine Paulson, Rock Hard Ten, 4, has not started since winning the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 5.

Mandella became concerned in the days after Rock Hard Ten breezed three furlongs on May 15.

"I've backed off and I'm taking my time," Mandella said on Thursday. "He doesn't have any problems. He's just stiff and sore and I'll take more time."

The stable may still be represented in major dirt stakes this summer.

Congrats, who finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap and was fifth in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 26, is nearing a comeback, Mandella said. Congrats is being pointed for the $75,000 Ack Ack Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs on June 11.

With Megahertz out, others file in

The absence of topweight Megahertz from Monday's $350,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap has led to several other fillies and mares joining the field of the Grade 1 race over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Wednesday, trainer Bobby Frankel said he would not start Megahertz, because he was unhappy with the 124-pound weight assignment. As of Thursday, the field had grown from six to nine probable starters, with Flip Flop, Mea Domina, and Solar Echo now expected to start. They will be joined by Amorama, Halo Ola, Island Fashion, Miss Terrible, Nadeszhda, and Uraib.

Miss Terrible will be the starting highweight at 118 pounds. She won the Citgo Distaff Turf Mile in her most recent start at Churchill Downs on May 7.

The Gamely is one of two Grade 1 races on Monday, joined by the $350,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile. Mullins confirmed on Wednesday that Castledale, the winner of the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile at Bay Meadows on April 23, will be supplemented.

Other probable Shoemaker starters include Buckland Manor, Fast and Furious, King of Happiness, Singletary, Special Ring, and Whilly.

Indian Ocean has adventurous trip to victory

Indian Ocean ran erratically through the stretch before scoring by a length over Gold Bridle in an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles Wednesday.

Indian Ocean, who scored his second straight victory, reacted several times to jockey Jon Court's whip before settling down in the final sixteenth.

"It was a little eventful," trainer Jay Robbins said.

Indian Ocean has won twice at the meeting, having also won a maiden race April 30.

Owned by Mercedes Stable, Indian Ocean is a candidate for the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap over 1 1/16 miles June 18.

Winendynme goes for back-to-back stakes

Winendynme will try to win her second consecutive restricted stakes of the Hollywood Park meeting when she runs in Saturday's $64,000 Tranquility Lake Stakes. The race is run over a mile on turf for fillies and mares that have not won a first-place purse of $40,000 twice since Nov. 15.

Winendynme won the Tuzla Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs May 6, rallying from sixth in a field of seven to win by a nose over Solar Echo. Although she has never won a stakes beyond about 6 1/2 furlongs, Winendynme was third in the one-mile Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in 2004.

The field of nine for the Tranquility Lake Stakes includes 2005 stakes winners Fencelineneighbor and Muir Beach.